Actor and national serviceman Aloysius Pang died due to the failure of those closest to him to observe training safety protocol, and his own carelessness, during a live-firing exercise in New Zealand in January this year.
That was the findings of a Committee of Inquiry, tasked with looking into the circumstances that led to the armament technicians’ death while operating a Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer gun.
Said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen:
“It is sad but undeniable that the direct cause determined by the COI that resulted in the death of CFC Pang was preventable had there been compliance to safety rules.”
According to Dr Ng, CFC Pang was conducting corrective maintenance on the SSPH, but he could not fix the gun and a regular technician was sent to rectify the fault.
The gun was required to be lowered to the standby position, and the order was given by the gun commander.
When the technician asked CFC Pang to move out of the way of the gun barrel inside, he declined and said that it would not hit him.
The gun commander saw that CFC Pang was still standing near the gun barrel’s end, but continued to lower it.
CFC Pang started making evasive movements as the barrel closed in on him, to the shock of the regular technician who saw that he was still in the path of the gun barrel’s end.
Then followed a comedy of errors – as the barrel dug into CFC Pang, the gun commander and regular technician responded irrationally instead of pressing emergency stop buttons.
The regular technician tried to stop the barrel with his hands, while the gun commander tried to do so using the main control screen.
Their actions were of no use – the barrel continued to press CFC Pang against the interior cabin of the SSPH.
The COI has no mandate to determine the culpability of individuals, and that no statements made to the committee shall be admissible as evidence in the court martial or for any subsequent disciplinary proceedings.
The matter is now being looked into by the SAF Special Investigation Branch, which has nearly completed all its investigations and will report directly to the Chief Military Prosecutor to decide if any serviceman will be prosecuted in military court for offences related to the death.